Poland’s Conservative Gov’t Refuses To Sign Obama’s Global Warming Pact Unless It Can Keep Coal

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Poland won’t sign President Barack Obama’s global warming deal unless the European Union lets it keep coal power, the country’s conservative government announced Monday.

“The ratification will be possible provided that Poland’s interests in relation to the European climate policy are secured,” the government said in a statement.

Coal will remain Poland’s main source of electricity for “many years,” the government said. The EU needs unanimous backing from member states, including Poland, to sign onto Obama’s global warming deal.

Polish energy producers are investing billions in modernizing old coal plants or in building new ones. At least four new coal-fired power plants are expected to come on line by 2019 in the country. Poland got 85.2 percent of its electricity from coal power in 2013, according to The World Bank.

Protecting coal power is a bipartisan issue in Poland.  “Polish energy security is based on coal, and that is our priority,” former left-wing Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz told journalists in October. The country sees attempts to transition away from coal power as it is the only fuel that Poland has large domestic reserves and prevents the country from being held hostage by Russian natural gas.

Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party has also stopped the construction of new wind turbines within a mile of homes and schools this March. The same government passed another bill in April that would allow it to shut down turbines for inspections and levy a tax on existing wind farms.

The government justified the decision by citing concerns about rising electricity bills, reducing costly green energy subsidies, aesthetics and health issues.

Theoretically, Poland gets about 13 percent of its electricity from wind; in practice however, the number is much lower. Globally, less than 30 percent of total wind power capacity is actually utilized due to the intermittent and irregular nature. Wind power tends to generate electricity at times of the day when power is the least needed, posing an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and making power grids vastly more fragile.

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